t’s going to be a struggle to be remembered. Right after IFA, Apple is going to come along with the iPhone 7, soak up all the digital column inches, and the leading hardware from Berlin will be forgotten in the space of a few days.
The world’s tech press will be in attendance and the vast majority of Android manufacturers know that a launch at IFA is going to get them far more press at their press conference than a solo event. While it will be a fight to stand out against the other manufacturers, the opportunity to speak to more members of the media is one that cannot be turned down. Ahead of the Q4 sales rush, this could be the last time that the press will be able to focus on manufacturers’ new hardware and almost every PR team will be eager to be established as ‘the winner of IFA’ and the resulting potential sales boost.
Android’s powerhouse Samsung has taken an alternate approach this year to the rest of the players. By hosting its launch event for the Galaxy Note 7 in August (much earlier compared to previous years), DJ Koh was not only giving Samsung relatively clear air to talk about the phablet’s attractive feature, he was also hoping to get the device established in the minds of critics and consumers as the chief rival to the iPhone hardware. He is courting comparisons, knowing that in a direct contest of like-for-like numbers the Note 7 is going to win out.
Apple is looking to trump all of the Android competition by launching last. With Apple’s September 7th event expected to be the announcement of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Tim Cook and his team can react to every other handset and craft a message that bigs up the iPhone and throws the shade on any other handset that is getting too close for Cupertino’s comfort.
Apple’s strength isn’t necessarily in being the fastest device, carrying the most storage, with the biggest camera sensor. It’s in the entire ecosystem around iOS that is focused only on Apple’s hardware. These elements (and the soft lock-in they create with consumers) help keep the consumer base engaged and create a safe space for new customers.
This isn’t without risk, and issues around zero-day security exploits and potential design flaws surfacing months after a purchase can damage the perception of that safe space. But the goodwill from the public that Apple has, is incredibly difficult to counter.
Samsung has decided not to fight that directly, instead choosing to undercut Apple’s release date with the Note 7 – after all it turned out to be a successful move with the Galaxy S7 and the S7 Edge announced before the reveal of the iPhone SE earlier this year. The other Android manufacturers do not have the budget or the marketing presence to pull the same trick. They will fight it out on the floor of Berlin’s IFA event. One battered winner will emerge. And it will be steamrollered almost immediately by the media coverage of the iPhone 7 launch.
By virtue of going last, Apple can target every message from the opposition as the device launches. Does that make the iPhone 7 or the iPhone 7 Plus a fundamentally better phone? No, because the design, form factor, and specifications were locked in months, if not years, ago. But it does allow Apple to have the fundamentally stronger PR campaign that can maximise its own hardware sales and weaken the opposition.
Once IFA is over, Apple will knows exactly what it needs to do next week to be seen as the leading smartphone manufacturer. It might not be a Steve Jobs ‘reality distortion field’, but Tim Cook’s timing is a thing of beauty. Lets see if Apple has the media moves to back up the potential.